Dollars to Pounds: Kindness

February 16, 2012

Adam Bainbridge aka Kindness is a man of mystery, owner of stone washed denim and possesses long dark hair that could make any girl covetous. He's fond of flooding his songs with balmy layered vocals, a purveyor of dark synths, effortless grooves and finger-clicking loveliness. He likes to get his legs out in videos. See evidence in the videos for "Gee Up" and "Cyan."

Recently, we met at Shanghai Dalston, a former pie and mash shop turned Chinese restaurant. It was Monday and we were both feeling fragile from dance festival, The Bugged Out Weekender, except I was recovering from food poisoning and he was recovering from a good time. At the back of the restaurant there’s a private karaoke room labeled VIP. Kindness loves karaoke. He told me Tears For Fears songs work best for this vocal range and that before I arrived he tried to convince the owner to let us have a session. Thankfully we were denied. He placed a budget film camera on the table and told me he has a roll currently being developed next door. He said he took a picture on there for me, it turns out it's the outside of the restaurant, snapped hastily from the middle of a busy road (see it on the next page).

Adam Bainbridge is a hard man to track down. Three years ago when he released debut single “Swinging Party”/ “Gee Up” on Moshi Moshi, the blogs went batshit. People wanted more and he had nothing more to give, but he did have plans and they involved wooing and working with producer and one half of Cassius, Philippe Zdar. Stream "Gee Up," from his debut album World, You Need a Change of Mind, below. Following the song is Kindness' first online interview ever, during which we consumed tofu, dumplings, turnip paste and four pots of Chinese tea.

Stream: Kindness, "Gee Up"

After releasing “Swinging Party” you disappeared. Why bother bringing out the single at all? Because I wanted to bring out an album and I was in the process of recording it, but it wasn’t going very well. It’s the same album as now, but with the first collaborator I could find to put me in a recording studio. It was so far away from what I wanted. The guy sold it to me like, I know a guy with a huge synth collection. Then 
I got to the studio and it was literally a guy with an iMac in a room. I spent all my savings paying the engineer every week and at some point it was apparent that they were taking the piss. I’d come from Berlin, my girlfriend back there was starting to get really angry with me because it was taking so long. The single meant that some A&R people noticed. I signed some papers and knew that I could go away for two years and make a good record.

That must have been crushing when you realized the album wasn’t what you envisaged. It was an unhappy moment, because you have such high hopes. Working on the real album with Philippe, it’s exactly what I wanted. With Philippe that process is as much about having a cup of coffee and bitching about whatever and eating too much sugar, as it is actually recording music, because for the seven months I was in Paris doing the record we only did about three weeks of work.

You pursued Philippe pretty ardently. He was responsive from the very first contact. He said, "I’m overwhelmed by messages from people asking me to work on their records, I hardly reply. I really like it, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be possible. Can you come and talk to me?" So I went to Paris, I gave him more demos and he said, "I’m going to Ibiza for the summer, I’ll let you know." Then what felt like three months later I turned up in Paris and said, “You’re not returning anyone’s calls, including your management. I’ve kind of been going insane. I don’t want to work with anyone else and I can’t imagine doing this record with anyone but you but please just give me an answer.” And he said, "Well in that case, let’s do it.”

What made you want to work with him in the first place? For his body, for his studio and for his integrity. He records to tape, he’s spent a fortune investing the money from his music into building his studio and buying incredible instruments. It seems like if someone’s prepared to invest that much of themselves into their work then those are the kind of collaborators you want to work with. He could have put all that money up his nose or into making a gold toilet with platinum discs but he just put it into recording. He’s funny and if you want to know where to get the best bunch of flowers, the best loaf of bread, the best shop of macaroons in Paris, he’ll help you.

In 2007 you went to Philadelphia for an artist in residence program and produced Kindess: Live in Philly. How important was that time to your musical development? I left London because I was in a creative rut. In Philly it seemed people were refusing the life they would have had in New York. They didn't want to work shitty bar jobs just to pay their $1000 rent and never finally get around to being the photographer or fine artist or musician they wanted to be. There’s a spirit of not being afraid to jump straight into collaborating, not being concerned about what the cooler kids would think of you for wearing a wedding dress and lipstick, as a man. People were a lot more embracing of dorkiness and silliness and genuine fun as opposed to, “Will I be in Page 6 tomorrow?” It might help my career in the short term, but as an artist I’m never going to produce anything if I’m constantly at open bars, drinking margaritas with Schmaltzy Pinkerton from Harper Collins.

You studied photography in Paris but dropped out. Do you regret that? No. When I came back to London I had a little portfolio and I went to The Face. I was new to London, I was excited by that hedonistic thing that doesn’t seem to be in magazines anymore beause that kind of imagery is so freely available now. At the time I was like, Oh young, good looking people, not wearing many clothes! So I took my portfolio to The Face and the photo editor was like, “Would you to shoot some bands?” I was like, “Bands? No! I want to shoot people with their clothes off.” She was like, “I can see that from your portfolio, but we start photographers off on bands before we progress to naked people.”

What was it like growing up in Peterborough? I got out before I finished school. Trips to London. Even family holidays would be enough to say there’s more to life than east Anglia. I have friends from there and now we’re all weirdly nostalgic for how normal it is. The future arrived and it’s very brash and there’s stuff coming at you from all directions, but life in The Fens was really no stimulation, no bands, no arts, no culture. You had to make all those things for yourself. It’s like the kid who doesn’t have any toys has a greater imagination. We were also a lot more grateful when we got to the big city. I eat out like I’ve never seen a restaurant before because coming from Peterborough I had never seen a restaurant before.

As someone who is mixed was it difficult? Yeah. I mean it’s oppressively white. I would get called poof just for walking down the street. Everyone’s just a meathead. They were like, Let’s mock him and feel threatened by his femininity.

When was the last time you had short hair? In 2005. Without it I don’t feel like myself. It feels horrible. I blame a terrible spate of DJ gigs and remixes around that time on my short hair. I went to one of those hairdressing schools [and the hairdresser] gave me an undercut and left the thickness of one strand of hair all over my head. It’s the kind of traumatic experience that requires counseling. I stopped making music, I didn’t date anyone for a few years. I saved money on shampoo.

You rework EastEnders actress Anita Dobson’s "Anyone Can Fall in Love" on your new album. The original is pretty cheesy. What drew you to it? There’s a certain elegance to what the songwriter Don Black is saying: falling in love is easy. But then he adds that coda that you actually have to work hard to maintain really loving relationships, it’s not that straightforward. That’s such a pragmatic anti-love song. It’s beautiful because it’s honest where so many love songs are just, When I looked you in the eye, I knew we would be together forever! It’s bullshit. I thought there was something beautiful and universal about telling the truth for once.

From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: Kindness